Pregnancy – What to Expect When you Are past Your Due Date
If you are having any symptoms or have any questions, please call 811 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day.
A pregnancy usually lasts for 38 to 42 weeks. It is considered overdue if it lasts more than 42 weeks. “Post-term pregnancy,” “prolonged pregnancy,” and “post-date pregnancy” are other phrases used to describe a pregnancy that lasts more than 42 weeks.
How is my due date determined?
One way to estimate your due date is to count 40 weeks ahead from the first day of your last menstrual period. However, some women can’t remember the first day of their last period or aren’t sure when they got pregnant. It can be especially hard to estimate an accurate due date if you get pregnant soon after you stop taking birth control pills. An ultrasound (also called a sonogram) done early in your pregnancy can help your healthcare provider estimate your due date.
Path to Improved Health
What if my pregnancy goes past the due date?
If your pregnancy lasts one week past your estimated due date, your healthcare provider will probably begin checking your baby more closely. Your healthcare provider may use an electronic fetal monitor to check how your baby’s movements affect their heart rate. This is called a non-stress test. In addition, your healthcare provider may do an ultrasound to look at how much amniotic fluid is around your baby. Ultrasound can also be used to check your baby’s position and to see how much they are moving. (You should continue to feel your baby move throughout your pregnancy. If you feel less movement, contact your healthcare provider.)
Toward the end of pregnancy, the cervix (the opening to the uterus) gets soft. It may even open up a little (also called dilation). If you are past your due date, your healthcare provider may begin checking to see if your cervix is getting soft and opening up.
Depending on how you and your baby are doing, your healthcare provider may recommend using certain medicines or other methods to induce (start) labour. This is done to avoid complications (for example, a baby growing so large that they would be hard to deliver vaginally) or fetal distress. Fetal distress happens when the baby doesn’t get enough oxygen. This causes the baby’s heart rate to drop, and the baby can’t tolerate the stress of labour. Many healthcare providers will induce labour if a woman is two weeks past her due date.
How will my healthcare provider induce labour?
There are several ways your healthcare provider may induce labour, including the following:
- Use medicine or a special device to help your cervix get soft and open up.
- “Break your water” by making a small opening in the sac filled with amniotic fluid. This is not painful, but you may feel fluid leak out when the amniotic sac is broken.
- Use a gloved finger to separate the amniotic sac from the wall of your uterus. This is called “sweeping the membranes” or “stripping the membranes.” It can feel uncomfortable and cause cramping or spotting. This method releases hormones that may make labour start for some women.
- Give you a medicine called oxytocin (brand name: Pitocin). It will start your contractions and help them get strong and regular. Oxytocin is given intravenously (through a needle into your vein). It usually starts to work in one to two hours and the dose is adjusted by your healthcare provider.
Things to Consider
Can I start labour myself?
You may have heard about ways to start labour yourself (for example, having sex, eating spicy food, taking a long walk). There is no scientific evidence that these methods work, and some of them can cause problems. To keep yourself and your baby safe, check with your healthcare provider before you do anything to try to induce labour on your own.